Fish River v4a5III**

Highest pitch 15m

Public access

4.5-6hrs  Total

  • 1.5-2.5hrs access,
  • 3-4hrs descent
  • 10min exit 

With a huge catchment, tricky access and high committment, this canyon has only be descended a few times.  Some have called it “Wilson Creek on Steroids” for its high flows, narrow canyon and dangerous features.

A viable route only in very low flow conditions in late summer:  even very experienced teams have had some close calls in here with siphons in ‘normal February flows’.  This is a canyon to take very seriously, but all who have been were very impressed at the beauty and power of the canyon.

Access

Park at the gravel pit on the left of the road approx 100m before Fish River Bridge.

From car park cross Jubilee Ck (signposted as Caanans Ck) and travel parallel to Fish River. Climb the broad ridge for about 30min then sidle on steep terrain upstream along animal tracks for about another 30min.

“(Once sidling upstream) We got lucky and didn’t need to turn back but I’m sure there are many spots where you could get bluffed out. It may also be possible to stay lower down on the canyon rim for the whole distance.”

Scott Hall

About 1 hr from the road, the terrain becomes a bit less steep, and 15 minutes futher on you arrive at a large old slip face. (This slip is visible from a long way down river when looking up). Cross the slip and then immediately descend to reach the canyon, 1h30m from the road. Just above the access point there is a huge bolder pile in the canyon.

Descent

The topo’s from Scott Hall and Alain Rohr differ slightly in the number of features and pitch height: Different teams will tackle obstacles differently.

On Scotts first descent, he and Dave Vass only used natural anchors, whilst Alain’s team placed a bolt. More bolts are likely required, especially to avoid water features in ‘normal’ flows. The high flash flood danger means you won’t be able to rely on any bolts being present: come prepared.

There is a lot of swimming and some jumping involved. Several jumps are into pools where you cannot see the exit. Advanced whitewater swimming and climbing skills may be needed. The leaders shouldn’t be carrying packs so they can position to assist others who follow. Communication and planning when jumping blind drops is important:

We got a little carried away with the beauty of the canyon, and on one drop, we jumped when we probably should have absieled and protected the pool better. It was a blind exit, and Alain went first. The pool had a sieve at the exit, and somehow Alain was able to avoid the suck, and get himself onto a rock. The rest of the team had no idea and jumped one by one into the water. Each nearly got sieved; Alain rescued each one of us that day. Without him there would have almost certainly been a fatality

Jethro Robinson

First descent: Dave Vass and Scott Hall, 19 March 2010. Photos are from the first descent, and show extremely low water levels for this canyon.


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